You can read my review of David Robertson's, International Economics and Confusing Politics, here. The review will appear in Economic Affairs. Overall, I like the book; though, Robertson neglects the key public choice literature which would have contributed to his argument.
I will be away coaching basketball for the next few weeks. My AAU team achieved their goal from the spring of qualifying for the Division 1 AAU National Championship in Clarksville, TN (Austin Peay State University). After TN, we will fly to MASS to play in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame National Invitational (at Univ of Mass). Then we head to Morgantown, WV where we will finish out our summer tour at the Hoop Group Harley Davidson Jam Fest (WVU).
In his 1963 presidential address to the Southern Economic Association James Buchanan famously asked, "What Should Economists Do?" Buchanan challenged the prevailing orthodoxy that treated the economic problem of society as one of allocating scarce resources among competing ends. The allocation paradigm, Buchanan argued, misconstrued the nature of economic science and the role of the economists in society. Buchanan argued instead that economists should be studying exchange relationships, not allocation decisions. Things get interesting for Robinson Crusoe when he discovers Friday. Economics is about exchange and the institutions within which exchange takes place, not an exercise in applied engineering; competition is a verb, not a noun; choice is a human endeavor plagued with uncertainty, not a mechanical procedure performed by robots, and so on.
The New Yorker has a review of Bryan's book. THE NEW YORKER! Dorthy Parker, the Algonquin group, etc. You cannot talk about American 'think-magazines' without mentioning The New Yorker.
When I published Why Perestroika Failed in the early 1990s, I tried to write the book in a fashion that would get both academic and public intellectual attention. The book was reviewed favorably in the TLS by Robert Conquest, which was a fine start, but no other elite intellectual outlets addressed the book. And the academic outlets were more or less limited to the field journals in Sovietology and some economics journals. But again certainly not as much attention as I had hoped. In this regard, my work failed. But Bryan's The Myth of the Rational Voter has to be judged a great success. Even those highly critical of the book have to engage it seriously.
Collier's basic argument is captured in this paragraph from his op-ed:
The clarion call for the left is Jeffrey Sachs’s book The End of Poverty. Much as I agree with Sachs’s passionate call to action, I think he has overplayed the importance of aid. Aid alone will not solve the problems of the bottom billion – we need to use a wider range of policies.
Collier also takes a shot at Bill Easterly's White Man's Burden. It is his intent to stand between the two --- embrace growth, embrace markets as the most effective means of achieving growth, but also have a positive role for international efforts to help build markets and more importantly to curtail the social conflicts that plague the societies where the bottom billion try to live their lives. That final sentiment is, like Sachs's sentiments, understandable but more a notional demand, rather than an effective demand. How are we in the West going to solve the internal conflicts in African countries? Chris Coyne's After War is going to be a very important work for all these guys to read carefully to scale back western ambitions at establishing markets and democracy abroad through either chosing sides and/or 'peace-keeping' activities. However, Collier does mention changes in trade policy as a major component of any policy steps to address the bottom billion.